OnlyOnAOL: Laverne Cox: 'Being an artist saved my life'

Selenis Leyva On "Orange Is The New Black" And "Custody"
Selenis Leyva On "Orange Is The New Black" And "Custody"

By: Donna Freydkin

Laverne Cox is first openly transgender actor to be nominated for an acting Emmy for her work on the Netflix hit "Orange is the New Black." Season four premieres on June 17, and Cox plays Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate who serves as as the prison's hairdresser. Season three ended in a brawl with Gloria, leading to Sophia winding up in the security housing unit. (Watch an interview with her "Orange" co-star Selenis Leyva above).

Cox is passionate, outspoken and a trailblazer. Just please don't call the actress a role model. "I prefer the term possibility model. I love the idea of possibility, the idea that maybe someone else's dreams are possible. It's more astute to say," she says.

To help others realize their dreams, she's part of Marriott Rewards #LoveTravels' project. Each creation submitted using #LoveTravels will become part of Marriott's collaborative art installation. Cox got involved because she was asked. "I was familiar with the campaign already. The element of the art installation of it was really exciting. I'm an actor. Being an artist saved my life. It's been deeply healing."

Growing up, says Cox she took "dance classes and every week I got to augment the creativity. It was a way to channel my pain and frustration. It gave me a reason to live. That was lifesaving for me. It's the truth."

2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards
2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards

Cox says being an actor, and expressing herself creatively, has been cathartic.

"I love being an artist. I love that I get to make a living as an actor. The fact that 3,500 (people) submitted works of art to the Love Travels campaign reaffirms to me the power of art. I love the idea of it. When we send love out into the world, it comes back to us. It saves people's lives in ways we can't even imagine," she says.

It's especially resonant given the shooting at the gay nightclub in Florida that left 49 dead, amidst unimaginable carnage.

Actress Laverne Cox
Actress Laverne Cox

So, we have to know: Is Cox a gifted painter herself? "I try but I'm not good at it. My twin brother is good at it. He's the artist. He painted," she says of her twin, M Lamar, who is a New York-based musician, performer and multimedia artist.